Apple has recently come under fire from cellular networks over Private Relay, but what is it? We’ve put together this guide to unravel Safari’s new privacy tool.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about Private Relay, including what it is, what it does, why mobile networks don’t like it, and how to activate it on your iCloud account right now.

What is Apple Private Relay?

Private Relay is a privacy feature that allows you to hide personal information, including your DNS records and IP address, from websites when browsing Safari.

This does not mean that no one will see this information, but it does mean that no party can keep track of who you are and which websites you visit. The feature prevents your network provider, the websites you visit, and even Apple itself from building a comprehensive profile based on your browsing history.

Private Relay works by sending your web requests through two separate internet relays. In the first relay, Apple and your network provider can see your IP address, but the address of the website you are visiting is hidden. In the second relay, a third-party provider will give you a temporary IP address, decrypt the web address you’re going to, and redirect you to that site.

Apple Private Relay Settings

Why don’t mobile networks like it?

Mobile UK, a trade association with EE, Virgin Media O2, Three and Vodafone, recently teamed up to write a letter to the UK Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), sharing their concerns about Private Relay.

The group warned that encrypting traffic could compromise the content filtering, malware, anti-scamming and phishing protection services that networks provide to customers.

It also warned that preventing network providers from seeing traffic information could make it more difficult for law enforcement to investigate issues such as terrorism, organized crime, sexual abuse and child exploitation.

Mobile UK is also concerned that by controlling the way Safari users browse the web, “Private Relay will diminish the role of the ISP and undermine their ability to differentiate and compete in the marketplace on fair terms”, essentially the job of an internet service provider.

Mobile UK is urging the CMA to tell Apple that Private Relay should become an optional service, which it is in its current beta form, but the group is concerned that Apple will make it a default Safari setting once it’s complete rolled out. This would force Private Relay to compete in the same field as VPNs.

Where should you turn it on?

Private Relay is a Safari feature unveiled in 2021 as part of Apple’s iCloud Plus package — a subscription service that gives you more cloud storage, access to tools like Hide My Email, and the ability to link your Homekit security camera to your account.

The feature is currently in beta for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices, which means you’ll need to go to your settings to activate it.

You can find the option in Settings, under your iCloud options. All you need to do is tap Private Relay (beta) to toggle it on and off.

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